Environmental medicine looks at the association between a patient’s health and the toxins found in our air, water, soil, food and medications. The toxins that we are exposed to in our home and work environments can be directly responsible for our poor health. Every day we are exposed to thousands of toxins and these small daily exposures can build up in our body and cause adverse effects to our health. Toxicologists and conventional physicians are trained to identify individuals who are acutely poisoned. They are not educated in how to treat someone whose symptoms stem from exposure to small daily doses of toxins. Naturopathic doctors who are trained in environmental medicine, such as Dr. Mason-Wood and Dr. McCarthy, are equipped with the knowledge of how to treat individuals whose symptoms arise from toxic overload.
Over eighty thousand different chemicals have been released into the environment in the last 50 years and the average person has over 90 toxins in their body. A build-up of these chemicals in the body can overwhelm the body’s defenses which can lead to chronic conditions. Environmental medical practitioners know that it is the total amount of toxins found throughout the entire body that causes adverse effects to health. This is known as a patient’s toxic load. Classical laboratory tests that measure poisoning will not produce results. Environmental medical practitioners look at a patient’s history of exposure to chemicals and match these to their symptoms. Genetics, lifestyle, diet, nutrient levels, stress levels, past and present environmental exposure are also taken into account. A patient’s symptoms depend on what organ systems are affected and the amount of toxins in each system. Our goal is to reduce the toxic load in your body and desensitize you to toxins so that your body can naturally defend itself. This allows a return to your natural healthy state!
- Headaches / Fatigue
- Concentration / Brain fog
- Decreased memory
- Mood swings / Irritability
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Ear, nose, throat congestion
- Chronic bronchitis
- Chronic sinusitis
- Seasonal allergies
Environmental toxins have four main categories:
1. Particulate Inhalants: This category includes pollen, dander, mould, dust and spores. Common symptoms caused by this category are asthma, allergies and migraines.
2. Foods: This category includes IgE allergies, such as peanuts, that can cause anaphylactic shock. It also includes non-IgE food sensitivities such as IgG or IgA antibodies which cause symptoms that are hard to detect and present themselves as other problems, such as, a stomach pain, eczema, arthritis or brain fog.
3. Flora: Some individuals can have an immune response to fungi, bacteria, viruses and parasites. An example of this is C. difficile causing diarrhea in hospital patients because the patients normal intestinal flora has been depleted by antibiotics.
4. Chemicals: This is the broadest category and is what we are exposed to on a daily basis. This category includes: heavy metals, solvents, petroleum products, BPA, PCB’s, VOC’s, herbicides, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, asbestos and countless others. Please visit our blog to read a recent post on BPA.
Dr. Mason-Wood has advanced training in Environmental Medicine and he has designed a safe and effective program to assist patients in assessing and addressing their environmental burdens. The first step in environmental detoxification is to assess the toxic burden of the patient. This is determined by taking a detailed patient health and environmental history including past and present toxin exposure. Dr. Mason-Wood will link the occurrence of specific symptoms with events of toxic exposure. This will allow him to provide a personally tailored detoxification protocol unique to you. He is able to formulate this by looking at specific signs and symptoms and use these as signposts to narrow what organ systems are affected. This is confirmed by environmental testing to quantify a patient’s individual toxic load and the organ systems affected.
The most common tests used to determine if you are intolerant to certain foods or if there is an overabundance of the above-noted toxins in your system include blood, hair, saliva, stool and urine testing. To learn more about the environmental tests available, please see the links below.
- IgG food Intolerance test: http://www.greatplainslaboratory.com/home/eng/food_allergy_igg.asp
- Heavy metals urine test: http://www.greatplainslaboratory.com/home/eng/metals_urine.asp
- Heavy metals hair test: http://www.greatplainslaboratory.com/home/eng/metals_hair.asp
- Heavy metals stool test here: http://www.greatplainslaboratory.com/home/eng/metals_fecal.asp
- Environmental testing (ie,solvents, petroleum products, BPA, PCB’s, VOC’s): http://www.metametrix.com/patients/test-information
- Elimination and re-challenge test: This test involves removing specific foods from your diet because they are suspected of causing allergic symptoms. For a certain amount of time you will not be able to consume any of these foods. If your symptoms go away then this may confirm that one of the removed foods is the trigger. The suspicious foods are then reintroduced into your diet one at a time. If symptoms reoccur after adding one of the foods then this is a good indication that you are allergic to this food or you have a condition called “Leaky Gut Syndrome” which needs to be addressed. Please visit our blog for an article on Leaky Gut Syndrome.
Please note the above list does not encompass all the tests performed, but it gives the patient an idea what to expect.
After a patients toxic load has been assessed and the source of their toxicity is found then detoxification can begin. The organs of detoxification include the liver, kidneys, colon, lungs, skin and lymphatic system and supportive therapies for these organs is critical prior to starting detoxification, chelation or allergy desensitization. If a patient is exposed to toxins on an ongoing basis then these toxins need to be removed from their life. This is because even if they are on a detox protocol they may continue to remain ill because the stressor is still in their life.
Heavy metal toxicity is one of the most common forms of toxicity. This occurs because our environment is full of heavy metals that easily find their way into our bodies through water, air, soil and food. In addition, the symptoms of heavy metal toxicity can take many forms such as:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Kidney problems
- Respiratory problems
- Abdominal pain
- Headaches or Insomnia
- And many other symptoms!
Chelation therapy involves the oral, intramuscular or IV administration of 2,3-dimercaptopropane sulfonic acid (DMPS), dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) or Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). These three chemicals are very effective at binding mercury, lead and other heavy metals and flushing them from the body after the liver and other organs of detoxification have been supported. The only risk involved with chelation therapy are a depletion of magnesium which is why magnesium supplements are given during chelation therapy.
As discussed above, many individuals are allergic or sensitive to certain foods which may cause various symptoms throughout the body. Treating food allergies has been shown to help conditions such as:
- Asthma & respiratory tract infections
- Mental health conditions: depression, anxiety, ADD, OCD, Autism, Aspergers, etc
- Skin conditions: Eczema, Psoriasis, Acne
- Digestive concerns: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Colitis and Crohn’s
In most situations elimination of the foods will be the recommended course of action, as well as treating leaky gut syndrome. However, certain protocols may de-sensitize people to some foods or build up their tolerance to them. Dr. Mason-Wood will work with you and choose the course of action that will maximize your health.
There are additional aspects to treatment which include educating individuals about what environmental stressors are causing their illness and how to avoid these stressors in the future. In addition, patients will be educated on how to modify their environment so that it is free of stressors. Nutritional supplements may be prescribed and treatment of any metabolic or hormonal deficiencies will occur. Additionally, a patient will be put through an immunotherapy protocol to boost their immune system so that once the detoxification process begins the body can naturally start ridding itself of toxins. Dr. Mason-Wood will also desensitize patients to food, chemicals and natural inhalants. Furthermore, other naturopathic modalities may be used such as homeopathy or botanical medicine to optimize a patient’s health.
For the body to be able to properly deal with environmental triggers it first needs to be detoxified. Then, the immune system needs to be balanced so that it properly responds to triggers in the future. Lastly, the body environment needs to be optimized so that toxins do not pool in it and the body can easily flush out toxins. Your treatment plan will be made so that these three objectives are achieved. It is Dr. Michael Mason-Wood’s goal that by the end of treatment your body burden has been reduced, your symptoms are gone and you are healthy.